Sonically, San Francisco-based Spiro Agnew is somewhere in-between the fuzzed-out guitar noise rock of The Jesus and Mary Chain and the synth-pop of New Order, a hybrid between reverb-heavy music and electronica. Over the course of 2010, songwriter Alex Musto recorded its debut album “OH What Model Citizens We Be,” a mediation on love, politics, and the fiction in between. After gigging at SXSW, SOTR caught up with Musto via e-mail:
SOTR: In 10 words or fewer, describe Spiro Agnew’s sound without referencing other bands and music genres.
AM: Well sometimes it’s hard to come up with a concise explantion of how you sound. There can be such a difference in what you hear in your head and what’s actually there. I guess if pressed probably the best way to describe us, in 10 words or fewer, it would be: a wall of sound with a danceable groove. Alternatively we could go with a simultaneous assault on your hips and ears.
SOTR: When did you start playing music? Why did you start playing? What instruments can you play?
AM: Don’t all young men start playing music cause they think it will increase their chances of sleeping with someone? I suppose I technically started with the couple of years of piano lessons I had as an adolescent but that never really went anywhere. I picked up the guitar in college, as you do, and then started seriously playing after I graduated, busking very poorly. As far as what instruments I can play, truthfully I play nothing very well. I can pretend to play guitar, bass, and keys. I’m really good at making mistakes look good. Fake it till you make it, such is my motto.
SOTR: I understand you were previously a member of the noise-punk band, Vitiligo. Why did you start Spiro Agnew?
AM: Yeah that project sort of imploded. Let’s say there were irreconcilable differences. Towards the end of that project I was getting really frustrated administering so many peoples lives I really wanted to do something much simpler. I saw a couple shows of rock/electronic sounding bands using drum machines and said to myself that’s what I’m going to do.
SOTR: For those who are unfamiliar, who is Spiro Agnew? Why did you name this project after him?
AM: Well Spiro Agnew was Nixon’s first Vice-President who resigned in disgrace. He was the big firebrand of his time (you might say the Sarah Palin of the 60s and 70s) and an absolutely despicable person. A real divisive figure that stoked reactionary rage against the cultural changes. So the million dollar question, why are we named after him? Well his name really sounds like the name of a band. Also, I suppose the idea first came around when back in college I used to get together with some friends and make some excruciating atonal noise music and one of the names that project (if you could call it such) went under was Spiro Agnew. I resurrected it for this project because as I was writing the album I realized that I was drawing a lot of inspiration from the frightening divisive nature (a little ominous in light of recent events) of our present politics. I tend to work out anxieties in my writing and that was causing a lot of uneasiness. Plus, his name really does sound like a band name.
SOTR: What are you working on now? Any upcoming releases? What should be we be expecting from Spiro Agnew next?
AM: Well with an album and several shows under the belt it’s about time to move on to the next thing. I’ve begun recording the next set of songs for an upcoming release. I’m hoping to have it out by May. We’ve got several shows planned around the Bay Area.
SOTR: Any last words?
AM: Uhhh…. this is not a pipe.
Friend Spiro Agnew on Facebook here.
Buy “OH What Model Citizens We Be” on Bandcamp here.